Thursday, 10 May 2012



By: Mariam Habib

As far back as I can remember, one thing that I was always known for by anyone who knew me, whether as passing acquaintances or fast friends, was that three subjects were explicitly taboo as far as any sort of criticism just or otherwise, subtle or blatant, was concerned – unless, of course, they were ready to have their heads bitten off. They were Pakistan, Quaid-i-Azam and Pakistan Army. Never once was I ashamed to be emotional about them, nor concerned that such a stance will portray a one dimensional thought process, generally scoffed at by most, if not all intellectuals. However, as age calmed the volatility of youth and experience taught tact, sentiments such as these were more often than not kept to oneself; opinions, however offensive, were tolerated and army bashing was taken in stride as questions that disturbed even my intellect were ruthlessly asked and pointedly highlighted to ridicule an unquestioning loyalty to an institution which to me is synonymous with Pakistan, its army.

It took the sacrifice of more than a 100 soldiers to jar me out of that intellectual complacency and shame me into admitting that there is nothing, absolutely nothing wrong with being irrationally sentimental about an institution which has given us so much for so long. It reminded me that when I say Pakistan Army, I do not speak of generals or the ever theorised ‘sinister’ establishment or any of our historic dictators; I speak of the common soldier. He epitomises the army. A man who stands up and says my country means more to me than my life, I will sacrifice my comfort so that others may rest easy, I will bear the harshest of conditions to stand guard so that others may be safe, I will endure separation from loved ones so that others need not and if need be I will gladly lay down my life so that my fellow countrymen can be spared. So next time you slur the army, it is this man that you dishonour.

So much has been said and written about the corrupt elements present in the army, the budget allocation to defence, martial laws and, of course, General Zia and General Musharraf, that we somehow miss the most basic facts in all such debates. Men who go into the army are not reared in laboratories or sent from above; they are part of the same demographic that calls itself Pakistani - the only difference is that the army, perhaps, is the only institution in Pakistan that has a system in place, which actually works, at least for most part; a system that allows accountability and integrity; that ensures honesty and hard work by drilling its participants with all sorts of physical and intellectual challenges. There is no denying that mistakes were made, and some did put personal interest in front of national interest, but that is inevitable wherever humans are part of the equation. Yet, during times of crisis our first line of defence has always been our soldiers. Whether we like it or not, the huge defence budget has been Pakistan’s necessity, rather than the army’s luxury. Anyone who has gone step by step through our history knows under what conditions Pakistan was made, what challenges we faced from day one and how the continued existence of our motherland is nothing short of a miracle in itself. Starting from scratch at the time of Independence to being a nuclear power today is a monumental achievement for Pakistan and the role of the armed forces has been integral in this. The bitterest of all truths is that where all faux pas and all blunders are so glaringly apparent to everyone and highlighted to no end by the so-called ‘experts’ or ‘champions of democracy’, all the sweat and blood and all the sacrifices that are part of a soldiers everyday existence go unnoticed.

I have always been frustrated with the assumption that a soldier’s life is one of luxury, the general perception that exists is that you join the army and a horde of servants are at your beck and call, you have a fleet of cars at your disposal, you live in the best neighbourhoods unjustly acquired by the army for your comfort and in general live like lords ruling over the less fortunate civilians - and I think to myself, how can I show them the life a soldier and his family actually lives. The agony of knowing that life and death hangs in a delicate balance for a loved one posted in Siachen or fighting against insurgents on the western border. The anguish of receiving the dead body of your son, who hadn’t even seen his 25th birthday or the grief of widowhood a year into your marriage, such is life for a soldier and his family. There is neither fortune, nor fame for a common soldier; there is just honour in life and honour in death.

Today as another 135 families are devastated by the loss of a loved one, I stand and salute our armed forces and their families. I give them my utmost respect and gratitude and ask their forgiveness for not realising just how much I owe them.

   The writer is a freelance columnist based in the US.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

What Singapore can teach us

The reason I am sharing this article is that I was happily amazed by the similarity of mindset and thought between me and the Singapore approach! I have for the last 15 years or so, talked about it without succeeding at the change we need!

If you’ve spent much time enduring the hassles, filth and indignities of LAX, Dulles and JFK, Singapore’s Changi airport is a revelation. As former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew decreed, you get from the gate to a taxi in 15 minutes. The men’s room is sleek and immaculate, and even asks you to rate your experience (and thus the attendant) via a handy touchscreen ranking as you leave.
As close readers of this column will have noticed, I’ve been a gushing fan of Singapore’s public policy achievements since I began looking at them a few years back. Singapore spends 4 percent of gross domestic product on health care vs. America’s 17 percent, yet it delivers equal or better health outcomes. It’s at the top of global school rankings because (unlike us) it routinely recruits exemplary students into the teaching profession.

Yes, I know, Singapore still denies press and assembly freedoms we take for granted, and has awful anti-gay laws on the books (which I’m told go unenforced). But a few days spent talking with officials, businesspeople, students and government critics in the city-state that now boasts one of the world’shighest per capita incomes have deepened my admiration for Singapore’s accomplishments. I also came away convinced that last year’s watershed elections — in which the ruling People’s Action Party won just 60 percent of the popular vote and lost a group constituency (and three cabinet ministers) for the first time since independence in 1965 — mean a more democratic political era is unfolding.

Start with what Singapore has delivered for its 5 million people. The place is a policy wonk’s paradise. Thanks to what may be a historically unique blend of dedicated, highly educated technocrats and the “luxury” of decades of one-party rule, the government has always taken the long view. Pragmatic problem-solving is its creed. Benevolent dictatorship never looked so good.

Beyond world-beating health care and education systems, some highlights:
* Development. Back when most developing countries shunned multinationals as evil exploiters, Singapore smartly embraced global firms as indispensable sources of training, technology and jobs. As a result, Singapore grew in real terms by a stunning 8 percent a year on average between 1965 and 2010, and has become a site of choice for top firms serving Asian markets. Even Uncle Sam now tries to emulate Singapore’s savvy in courting foreign direct investment. The state’s latest economic strategy document, crafted with input from stakeholders across the island, reads more like a strategy consultant’s analysis than the usual blue-ribbon mush.

“We’re like a company,” says Philip Yeo, who ran the globally admired Economic Development Board for years before launching a new agency that’s an innovative cross between the National Science Foundation and a venture capital firm. “We have a plan.”
* Clean talent. Singapore’s government has always been clean and exceptional. The tone was set early on by Lee, who flew commercial to international meetings and was repulsed by African leaders who came in on private jets while their people starved. Lee ruthlessly punished officials who tried to use their post to line their pockets, insisting that the rule of law meant just that. Top students are offered full rides to places such as Oxford, MIT and Stanford, and then “bonded” to do, say, six years of government service thereafter.

Twenty years ago this culture was bolstered by the introduction of the world’s highest public-sector salaries, so that government could compete for the best and brightest. I’m talking roughly $2.5 million for the prime minister and $1.3 million for cabinet ministers (with bonuses tied to GDP growth). Pay became an issue in the last election and was recently scaled back for top officials by roughly a third in response. But whatever the right balance, pause and think how smart it is to pay for the talent a country needs to govern — and how differently we’d view, say, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s approach to Wall Street reform if everyone wasn’t expecting him to cash in when he leaves.

*Transport. Singapore runs the world’s best airline (despite being based in a nation the size of New York City, with no internal flights). The subways are gorgeous. The city uses electronic road pricing — every wonk’s dream — to ease traffic at peak hours. Digital signs advising where ample parking places can be found dot the main thoroughfares.
*Housing. In America, “public housing” means “ghetto.” In Singapore, 80 percent of people live in public housing and virtually all of them own their homes, having received mortgage assistance from the government. It’s part of the national strategy to build assets and foster the positive social behavior that comes with ownership.

*Urban planning/climate change. A big chunk of the downtown bay area is now a reservoir via a feat of engineering I don’t pretend to understand but which experts tell me is remarkable. Meanwhile, Singaporean officials don’t debate whether climate change is real but instead are taking such impressive steps to cope that one U.S. guru told me “it’s actually embarrassing as an American to look at what they have done.”

*Fiscal stewardship. This may be the founding generation’s most distinctive legacy. The giants of Singapore’s independence — Lee, economic architect Goh Keng Swee, and others — were educated in the United Kingdom and started out as Fabian socialists. But they concluded early on that Britain’s post- Beveridge commission welfare state would become unsustainable as the population aged and risked undermining incentives to work, which they saw as the foundation of a strong society.

The path they chose for social security was thus a different form of nanny state — high forced savings, under which workers typically must contribute 20 percent of earnings to their account in the Central Provident Fund, with employers adding 15 percent more. The aim is to build up assets that can be tapped to buy homes, cover medical expenses and prepare for retirement. To be sure, there are serious questions today as to whether middle- and low-income people have adequate savings for these purposes now that Singaporeans live to 80, not 60, and new health treatments are pricey. But the culture of self-reliance this approach has imbued is strong.

What’s more, the fiscal strength it has given the government to address emerging challenges is arguably unique at a time when Western democracies groan under the weight of trillions in unfunded entitlement liabilities. Singapore, if you’ve followed how this works, has exactly zero unfunded liabilities. Since the forced savings accounts are done by the individual for the individual and are not legislated entitlements, there’s no redistribution involved. While critics and reformers tell me the years ahead will almost certainly see Singapore redistribute more amply to elderly and poor citizens at risk of falling through the cracks, no government is in a stronger fiscal position to update its social compact to cope with the age wave. In part that’s also due to conservative budget rules and endowment-ethic investment practices that have left Singapore with more surpluses and reserves than virtually any other nation.

Singapore is hardly perfect. Critics make a good case that the long rule of the People’s Action Party has left it complacent and out of touch. In some ways the government’s decades of exceptional performance have also created expectations that are impossible to sustain. What’s more, the great fruit of government’s success, Singapore’s educated middle class, naturally seeks a greater voice now in politics (and is ushering in a fascinating new era I’ll discuss next week).

But the big thing to take away from the Singapore story thus far is this: While Americans fight endlessly about “big government” vs. “small government” yet do nothing to meet our biggest challenges, Singapore has ignored ideological claptrap and focused relentlessly on what works. Its low-tax, business-friendly environment is matched with major government activism in education, health care, infrastructure and housing.

Singapore thus stands as the leading modern example of how government as pragmatic problem-solver can dramatically improve people’s lives. This ethos has virtually disappeared from U.S. governance at the national level. Liberals are wrong to ignore Singapore’s progressive achievements because of its (rightly criticized) shortcomings on civil liberties. Conservatives are wrong to miss the lessons of Singapore’s activist, hyper-competent government.

It was roll-up-your-sleeves pragmatism that catapulted Singapore from third world to first in a few scant decades, and it is pragmatism, not ideological power games, that will be needed for American renewal. When it comes to effective governance, to paraphrase that famous scene in “When Harry Met Sally,” we could do a lot worse than to have some of what Singapore’s been having.

Matt Miller, a co-host of public radio’s “Left, Right & Center,” writes a weekly online column for The Post. His e-mail address is

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Gaddi Nashin & the 70 khushaamedees

Posted as received!

There are times such as this when the malaise of 'complacency in the face of efforts apparently going nowhere..sets in..well..this is when we need to give ourselves a mental shake  and decide that 'protest' must be registered and that we must believe in our God believe in ourselves..know within our souls..restrengthen the fabric of ethical practice and register our opinion..

The PM is taking this gigantic monolithic mammoth entourage to the UK,where he is being shown his position..the Duke of York will meet him..wah wah..the fact that this is a sentenced PM is perhaps one of the issues, albeit a very important one.

However, my focus is on a fact that the financial status of the country is in such an awful state that it simply defies description, and the PM thinks it is his birth right to  fill a plane with a motley crowd of khushamadees, or those who are to be pleased for the forthcoming elections..and ferry them to the UK.!!! reeling..there is an ongoing gun battle between the State and DACOITS...forget the writ of law..think of the people dying..the families losing dear ones..burying them..losing earning members..the fleeing residents have no money no earning, they do not know when they will return to their homes (if they do ) whether there will be a home or say a shop to go back to..refugees in their own city..!!!

SUCH A SHAME PM GILLANI..I, as a citizen of Pakistan do believe that your 'unsurpassed' wealth is God's gift to you..your inheritance..You are this 'Gaddi Nashin' and your lineage is awesome..therefore I do believe that every morning there is a mound of gold under you gaddi..therefore the money belongs to you..your birthright..what would a mere mortal like me know about such 'divine' matters?? smaller mounds appear for your 'heirlings' I accept the absolute claim that you make.

HOWEVER..I DO NOT accept or believe ..that despite your have the right to tow 70 people to 'escort' your Gaddiship to your tea party at the Residence of the Duke of that your 'favoured' ones can assuage their grief and wipe their tears shopping at Harrods..for not getting an 'invite' whilst you sip 'Earls Grey' and delicately nibble on a cucumber sandwich, chatting with HRH the Duke, of course..

Neither am I NOR ARE fellow Pakistanis (MILLIONS, MIND YOU) going to fall for some STUPID line regarding your burning 'midnight oil' working on 'future collaborations' BLAH, BLAH & BLAH.

BE WARNED MR PRIME MINISTER...for your own good..this is the Nation of Quaid e Azam JINNAH..and Quaid e AZAM did not spend the wealth of the State on his person the question of spending it on an entourage did not even arise..and Quaid e Azam's entourage made Pakistan..I rest my case..